Posted by: Emily | December 26, 2010

My 2011 Q1 cycling goals

With less than a week to go until the start of 2011 I have, like no doubt many other people, been contemplating what I have, or haven’t, achieved over the last 12 months and what the next 12 will bring. From a cycling perspective, 2010 has been a really great year. Not only have I cycled more than 7,000 miles, but I’ve had some really wonderful rides and experiences in the process. I’ve also acquired a new bike, my Van Nicholas Yukon, and a lot of really good cycling gear such as my new Craft Thermal Split Finger gloves (aka the Lobster gloves).

Over the last couple of months, however, although I’ve still been commuting to work by bike every day, any real training has more or less fallen by the wayside. It’s not surprising, therefore, that my cycle fitness has taken a bit of a nosedive and on most of my recent rides I’ve felt very slow – particularly when going up any kind of hill. No doubt with a bit of effort I’ll speed up again, but I think it’s helpful to have precise, or SMART, goals. SMART being Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time framed.

There are two main areas of my cycling that I want to improve. Firstly, speed – I want to be able to cycle faster in general and, more importantly, maintain a high speed (i.e. not get out of breath so quickly). Secondly, hills – I want to be better at both ascending and descending. By “better”, I mean I want to be able to cycle up them faster and/or without walking and get down them faster (and/or without walking for that matter). With a bit of planning, and with the help of my new Garmin Edge 800, I can turn those into SMART goals.

Earlier today I went for a ride which I’m going to use as my yardstick hill ride over the next few months. It was just over 17 miles and had a number of hills. The hills were nothing compared with some of the horrors I’ve encountered on sportives (e.g. Dunkery Beacon), but still enough to get my heart rate up to 170 bpm on more than one occasion and, especially with my current lack of fitness, to feel like I’ve had a really good/tough ride. Today it took me one hour and 20 minutes in total to complete the circuit. I’d like to think I could reduce that by a reasonable margin. Given the fact I’m cycling in London, where traffic conditions can make a big difference to ride time, it’s very hard to decide on a precise target time, so it’s more of a general aim than something I’ll have an exact target for. The more concrete goal that I’ll be tracking with this ride is the speed at which I can get up one particular hill.

My hills

The above chart shows the elevation profile of my hill ride. The uphill I’ll be using to track my progress is the one that comes just after the two mile point. For anyone familiar with NW London, it start in Golders Green, at the bottom of North End Road, and lasts for just under one mile, finishing at Whitestone Pond – the highest point in London. Today, riding my Condor Tempo fixie, it took me five minutes and 36 seconds to complete. My goal is to do the same hill, on the same bike, in four minutes or less. I aim to achieve this by the end of Q1 2011. The goal fits all the SMART requirements apart from the fact I’m not yet sure such a big improvement is attainable in only three months, but I’m willing to give it a go. From looking at the chart one might argue that the second big hill, the one that starts around the five mile point, might be better, but as it contains at least five sets of traffic lights and a number of additional zebra crossings there’s just too much variance due to non-cycling factors to make it a valid test.

In order to tackle the second area that I want to work on – speed – I’m going to use the Park Loops ride that I regularly do with Ian, Gav and Stu as my yardstick. It’s a ten mile ride around Regent’s Park – just under four loops in total. Using the Garmin to track the speed of both the whole ride as well as each mile, it provides a perfect way to measure and track my progress. Tomorrow morning I’m going to do the ride so I know what my current speed is and what I should target for the end of Q1 2011. Then all that remains is to start the training…

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